Mother jailed for smacking freed as judge rules 'loving and caring' parents do strike children
PUBLISHED October 1, 2012
A mother jailed after her children complained to social services that she had smacked them, has been freed after a top judge said her actions were no worse than those of "many loving and caring parents throughout the land."
The mother, whose partner had left her, had carried out "excessive chastisement" on four occasions on two of her sons over the space of seven years, London's Criminal Appeal Court heard today.
The woman, in her 30s and who is from a town near Cardiff, was handed an 18-month term by Judge David Wynn Morgan sitting at Cardiff Crown Court on July 16, after pleading guilty to four counts of cruelty to a person under 16.
Appeal judges, Lord Justice Elias, Mr Justice Coulson and Mrs Justice Thirlwall, ruled that Judge Morgan had "taken his eye off the ball" when he sentenced her, and ordered she be freed immediately.
The mother's barrister, Ruth Smith, told the court she was arrested and brought before the courts after one of her sons made a false allegation to social services that she had attacked him and caused him bruising. The child later admitted that was a lie he had told in order to get more contact with his estranged father.
During their investigations however it came to light that she had slapped her 15-year-old son in the face during an argument in 2010, had banged two of her sons head's together for fighting, and had also slapped two of her sons in 2003.
Miss Smith told the court that the mother "couldn't cope" with her children and said the only injury which was caused in all of this was a bruised ear on one occasion.
She added that there was "clear evidence she had been a victim of domestic violence" herself.
Lord Justice Elias, freeing her, said: "An offender must be sentenced only for what she has been found guilty of. This was plainly an unhappy home...(but) she is not being sentenced for being a bad mother or an incapable mother or of being incapable of controlling her children.
"Only one of these offences caused physical injury. The other incidents are similar to actions taken by many loving and caring parents throughout the land in moments of stress. They may regret it afterwards, but parenting is a difficult skill.
"It is said that the judge gave insufficient weight to her previous good character and was unjust in saying that she had shown no remorse, because there was evidence she was very upset at the time.
"It is also submitted that he was wrong to say that she was minimising her behaviour, because there were occasions when the children had made allegations which had subsequently been disproved.
"We think that the premise of the sentence imposed by the judge was incorrect.
"If he had focused on the particular incidents, only one of which caused physical injury while the others may be seen as chastisement going beyond its bounds, a sentence of 18 months was too long.
"We think the judge took his eye off the ball.
"We think the right thing to do now would be to give her a sentence of five months imprisonment that would secure her immediate release.
"No valuable purpose would be served by keeping her in prison any longer," the judge concluded, cutting her term to five months, and effecting her immediate release.